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Marcin Gortat staying with the Phoenix Suns...For Now

Jeff Hornacek likes the veteran influence of Gortat and McDonough says he's part of a core. But is this all smoke-screen while free agency plays out?

Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

The Phoenix Suns' starting center Marcin Gortat is nearly 30 and on the last year of a very reasonable contract. Two days ago, the Suns drafted his eventual replacement in 20-year old Alex Len.

If the Phoenix Suns were a playoff team, this scenario at center would be ideal - make one more run with Gortat getting the bulk of the minutes in the pivot while the rookie grows into an NBA player. And, if the rookie proved not to be ready to start in 2014-15, even consider giving Gortat a 3-year extension to stay in the Valley.

But the Suns are not a playoff team. The Suns are a team who's best hope for the future is to look toward a high pick in the 2014 Draft, and while they're at it give any help they can to Minnesota to make the postseason.

While in 2012-13 Gortat proved he's no obstacle to keeping the worst record in the West, there's still the matter of chemistry and player development. Marcin Gortat is not a player development specialist. He doesn't own the locker room, or rally any troops around him. He's not an example for young kids to emulate, as he simply goes about his job and talks more about "I" than "we".

Gortat wants to win basketball games, and he's not going to do it in the Valley. He needs to be a valuable contributor on a veteran team, playing his role and nothing else.

Speculation ran rampant on both the Blazers blogs as well as the Suns' that Gortat could be traded for the #10 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. That did not happen. It could have been logistics - no trade package works until the 2013-14 season begins, so it could only have been a "promise" deal. Or, it could have been that Portland would rather pay Nikola Pekovic or Tiago Splitter $12+ million per year than pay Gortat less.

Whatever the case, the Suns and Gortat are still married.

"It's clear they are in a rebuild and they drafted a center, so [a trade] would make sense, but for now they want to hold onto him," Gortat's agent Guy Zucker said Friday afternoon to RealGM. "As with everything in the league, it should be stated: As of today."

Right after Alex Len was taken with the 5th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, new Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek riffed on the dynamic between the two centers.

"We always talk about rebuilding," Hornacek said when asked about Gortat. "However, we have to remember we have some very good players on this team, and that sometimes when you add a piece or two all of a sudden that could change a little bit. We have a lot of possibilities.

"I don't know that we'd go the twin towers route but if Alex gets in there right away and it's like this kid should be playing right off the bat, maybe we try that and that's a weapon we can use every once in a while."

Obviously, Hornacek has no idea how they will play together and, with Len's injury, won't get a chance to see that until training camp at the earliest. I am guessing Hornacek was just talking off the top of his head while Gortat was still on the team. He was allowing for the fact that they might earn more minutes, between them, than the 48 in the pivot.

General Manager Ryan McDonough iterated the Suns' stance on the local media, just as he did to Gortat's agent.

"We're not looking to move him," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 620′s Burns and Gambo Friday. "As you guys I'm sure know, Alex had foot surgery, and he's not ready to play.

"Marcin is one of our best players here. He's a core guy for us. He is one of the more athletic bigs in the league, he screens, he rolls, he finishes and he blocks shots."

To me, that's simply a message to the rest of the league to step up your bush league offers. There are a few centers available in free agency that won't be very free. Yet the teams who need a solid, veteran center might want to feel those options out before giving the Suns an asset or two for Gortat.

Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum, Nikola Pekovic and Tiago Splitter will all get at least $10-12 million per year for several years. While Bynum and Jefferson are free to sign with anyone and are likely unwanted by their incumbent team, the other two are very likely to stay right where they are.

Both Pekovic and Splitter are restricted free agents, meaning their team can match an offer. And both are considered priorities by their incumbent teams, Minnesota and San Antonio respectively.

Most likely, teams that need a veteran center will try that route first, then circle back to the Suns for a cheaper option.

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